Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Album Review - "Trouble Will Find Me" by the National

Trouble WIll Find Me (2013)              ★ 1/2 

Among the frantic hype surrounding the leak of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories a lesser-hyped album slipped by the social media front. The National are back with their sixth album Trouble Will Find Me. With a no-fuss attitude, we can only lay back and bask in the impressive production and emotive vocals.

This is an album of well-recorded material ranging from deliberative guitar riffs to deep, husky vocals from Matt Berninger. The National are known for their dark tone but the album is by no means mellow. They seem to be moving away from their alternative sound and reaching a more classic rock aesthetic.

It kicks off with subdued acoustics before expanding into steady percussion and a sweeping chorus demanding attention in ‘I Should Live In Salt’.  With an understated throw to Dylan-esque spoken poetry, The National recreate their world of pain and anxiety but with a certain strength that supports the broad dynamics.

‘Demons’ and ‘Don’t Swallow the Cap’ follow with a more driven, upbeat atmosphere. Rolling Stone related it to Springsteen-style energy and although there is a retro feel to this release, the marriage between restless lyrics and rhythmic music sounds progressive. It is an album for the music lovers, with a sneaky reference in ‘Cap’: “If you want to see my cry, play Let It Be or Nevermind.”

 ‘Fireproof’ breaks the full sound of the album with a delicate ballad and sore despair conjuring heartbreak tunes from Elliot Smith (“You’re the needle in the hay”). It feels like there is something simmering under the surface. It harks back to the common characters of National albums who are dejected and cynical.

And then the sound changes with ‘Sea of Love’ – I can only expect will be one of their favourites on the live circuit. Strong bass and melody line underlies whining electric guitar and sing-a-long lyrics: “Hey I’m sorry I hurt you/ but they say love is a virtue.”

‘This Is the Last Time’ has the spiteful address to heartbreak reminiscent of Joy Division or The Cure: “Jenny I am in trouble/can’t get these thoughts in trouble”. Whereas “Graceless” is musically expressive with an open sound - pounding drums, hesitant harmonies and distorted guitars.

It always seems to be musicians from Brooklyn who are burdened with swirling anxieties. “I’m in the crush and I hate it/my eyes are falling,” he mumbles about the trouble of facing a failed love in ‘Slipped’.

For the soppy romantics out there, ‘I need my girl’ is the heartbreak anthem. It reaches that bittersweet reflection, signature of Leonard Cohen, with an acoustic minimalism and sweeping synth giving voice to the floating lyrics: “I need my girl/I’m under the gun again.”

The final three tracks are looser in structure, with a freer aesthetic. After an emotional crescendo, it is satisfying to reach the sweeter end.

Often when a band reaches album number six, it can become a critical flop (One Hot Minute- RHCP?). However, Trouble Will Find Me has a simpler, more accessible construction than earlier work from The National which will make for a more accessible release. They are storytellers at heart and their latest release only unveils a sense of wisdom given years of experience.

Listen if you like: Interpol, Arcade Fire, Band of Horses, The Antlers, The National (duh)
Top tracks: Sea of Love, This is the last time, I need my girl

No comments:

Post a Comment